Vengeance Time

In theme, Royal Warriors isn’t different from Hong Kong’s litany of martial arts genre films from the ‘70s and early ‘80s. Both hero and villain seek vengeance for a variety of deaths, but the progressing social norms complicate what was typically accepted in those period pieces.

Royal Warriors contends with the modern legal system, police authority, and justice, things not in consideration as a kung fu hero blitzed a rival school in countless Shaw Brothers epics. Michelle Yeoh stars here, a dazzling fighter on screen, dealing with broken personal relationships while battling a sadistic militia bonded by their war experiences.

Royal Warriors succeeds because it finds balance on both the dramatic and action sides

Time also changes the political dynamic. Wherein kung fu films portray Japan through a lens of animosity due to Imperial Japan’s occupation, Royal Warriors works alongside Japanese agents to bring down this violent crime ring. It’s still uneasy, and cultural dynamics further the problems, but there’s a willingness to engage and heal.

It’s a soapy script in places, and the action genre cliches reach across the ocean to place themselves here, if not with the same generic simplicity. Hiroyuki Sanada struggles when dealing with his family, including a young daughter, showing the strain international policing has on their lives. Yeoh too, emotionally torn by rage and her charmingly goofy husband who can’t adjust to her changing demeanor, caused by her work.

That’s honest, but up against a raw Hong Kong action movie, replete with ridiculously dangerous car chases, creative locations, and a finale that brings everything together. Chainsaws, sledgehammers, a tank, a crane, street signs, mine carts – it’s all used, avoiding repetition from the earlier gun-heavy brawls, which also astound in their editing, flashiness, and impact. Royal Warriors spares no one, picking off civilians and even over-glorifying their final moments to ensure the villains comes across as such.

Embracing the outlandishness, Royal Warriors succeeds because it finds balance on both the dramatic and action sides. Drizzled in ‘80s neon and bloody spectacle, the harshness adds stakes, knowing both hero and villain will act as needed to accomplish their goals. That’s evident early, and Yeoh’s initial playfulness quickly disappears, not only adding to her character, but silently showing how this brutality changes a person. Plus, the stunts (in droves) make it joyous to watch.

Royal Warriors Blu-ray screen shot


Fresh from a new 2K scan, Royal Warriors makes a positive impression in the beginning, but looking closer, there’s slight suspicion. While grain is preserved, it’s also filtered. This leads to unfortunate smearing and messy motion. This also reduces detail, shaving off the finest top layer while leaving the rest intact.

With the modern master, color grading skews digital too, if not offensively so. The subtle teal push saps flesh tones of their vibrancy, if leaving them intact. This same push swings primaries to the cooler end of the spectrum too.

This luckily leaves the contrast alone, slightly chilled of course, but bright, perky, and energized. Shadows dip toward pure black, slightly off from perfection, but enough to do the job.


Cantonese theatrical mono defaults at beginning, with an alternate Cantonese track, English dub, and a new English 5.1 track also offered. The new 5.1 mix is a mess, with a blown out center channel that’s difficult to listen to. While the Cantonese mono lacks range (stuck in a mid-tone), at least it’s less demanding on the ears. Rough as the dialog sounds, coarse as the action is, that puffiness doesn’t ruin anything. It’s more in line with the era’s limitations, if still in need of clean-up. The rotting score alone deserves attention.


Genre expert Frank Djeng hops in for a commentary, with trailers and promo materials following.

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

Royal Warriors
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Rife with Hong Kong ’80s action, Royal Warriors is a blast of stunt-based ingenuity and eclectic design.

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The following six screen shots serve as samples for our subscription-exclusive set of 42 full resolution, uncompressed HD screen shots grabbed directly from the Blu-ray:

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